It was never acute—the self-loathing. While I can’t say I ever felt like a million bucks, I also wasn’t walking around looking for the nearest bridge to jump off of (like some of my angsty, white, adolescent counterparts). While my Caucasian friends were complaining of freckles, acne and what they deemed as overly shapely figures, I had somehow remained untouched by the all-too common experience of adolescent self-hatred. Although I’d never have stepped up on a podium and giving an inspirational sermon on self-love, I still felt like I had a decent relationship with my body and my self worth. I was normal. I wasn’t in love with myself, but who was? I was happy enough with what I’d been given.
But, let’s dissect “younger me” for a minute. If you’d stopped me in the street and asked me whether I hated myself, of course my answer would’ve been a resounding “NO!”. I would’ve rolled my eyes and scoffed. I was a loud, boisterous and confident person, which to me, was sure proof that I loved myself. By my flawed logic, extroversion was just another word for confidence. Yet, if you’d asked me who my favorite entertainers were, I would’ve listed dozens of white, biracial or light-skinned black women, before I listed a singer or actress who shared my complexion or was (god forbid!) darker than me.
If you’d been curious enough to ask me about my “long” hair, I would’ve claimed it was all mine, preferring the flowy, silky, European-textured wigs and weaves, to the lively, coily locs that grew underneath.
I truly thought that I had a healthy relationship with myself, but my actions showed otherwise. If I’d truly adored the way I looked, I would’ve been vehement about showing off all my beautifully black, bantu features. Instead, I was secretly ashamed.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone. Biracial actresses like Zendaya, and light-skinned black women like Beyonce, often gain a cult-like following of darker-skinned black women who worship them. We live vicariously through these women, hoping that the privileges afforded to them will trickle down to black women like us.
Black women love to pride ourselves on our newfound “wokeness”. “Black is beautiful!” we say, as we proudly swing our European-textured wigs back-and-forth. We harp on about how we’re not like the previous generation, who often shied away from calling out racism in favor of “turning the other cheek”. We boast of how we’ve created a robust and effective “cancel culture”, where we cancel problematic white celebrities and then go on to unwaveringly support every album, beauty kit or fashion line that they release. We hate the way the Kardashians culturally appropriate every aspect of black culture and black womanhood, yet we can’t stop watching them or giving them attention.
We need to start being honest about the way that self-hatred has continued to linger in the black community, even amongst the most socially-conscious members of the group. Why would simply knowing about racism, colorism and misogyny cause us to be exempt from its influence? Black women, we have not won the battle. We’re still living in a world that hates black women and we need to be honest and transparent about the necessary work of undoing our anti-black woman conditioning. It’s daily work. Regardless of whether you’re black in the suburbs or in blackistan, we still have mounds of work to do to undo the self-hatred.
Let’s do better, black women. And it’s starts by simply acknowledging that we still have something to work and improve on.
Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.